UT College of Engineering News

Engineering faculty helps science center get early education grant

Toledo’s Imagination Station received more than $300,000 Tuesday to help with early childhood education in science, technology, engineering, and math.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio) was at the museum to award the $311,676 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Miss Kaptur said the award was one of only 13 granted from a national field of 60 applicants.

“There are many places in our country that have no Imagination Station,” she said. “There are many places that have no Toledo Zoo, there are many places that have no Toledo Museum of Art. If we look at our legacy, those who came before and those who give generously now really says a lot about this place we call home. This is coming at a great time for Imagination Station and a time when our young children in this community need some extra help across the board.”

Lori Hauser, chief executive officer of the Imagination Station, said the grant will help expand existing programming and set up a program shared with other facilities nationwide once it is finished within the next several years.

Ms. Hauser said middle-class parents have conversations with their preschool children five times more than families in poverty do.

“Every child going into kindergarten should have those same sets of opportunities and skill sets, so we would like to see the programming we’re able to set with parents help everyone across Lucas County first and then on a national level,” Ms. Hauser said.

The grant’s goal is to promote meaningful play for preschoolers, to create interaction between parents or caregivers and children, and to offer tools that can be used in learning facilities.

The grant will allow Imagination Station to launch Toddler Tuesday, quarterly science nights, and after-school programming.

In addition, the grant will let Imagination Station work with the University of Toledo to develop family packs that focus on vocabulary skills. The museum also will work with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library to choose monthly book selections to encourage literacy.

“It’s trying to prepare a child with a well-rounded base of knowledge to set them up for success,” Miss Kaptur said.

Charlene Czerniak, research and engineering professor at UT, said many jobs require a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math, making it important to teach children hands-on skills at a young age.

“We really know we have to start with young children,” Ms. Czerniak said, adding the grant will allow children and their parents or caregivers to get involved in science and engineering practices, and to help children who are curious about a subject. “[Children] are so curious about the world, so it’s a fun way to get young children learning the knowledge and skills that are needed.”

Miss Kaptur said these programs will help the region’s children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn.

“We have our work cut out for us in helping our youth develop in those early years,” Ms. Kaptur said. “Children are full of questions when they’re very young. This is meant to pique their curiosity and to lead them to adventures in learning about science.”

Ms. Hauser said Imagination Station’s partners in the programs related to the grant include Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Aspire, the University of Toledo, Polly Fox Academy, Summit YMCA Head Start, and the Early Learners Collaborative.

Contact Geoff Burns at: gburns@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.

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